Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Quietly" They Fight.

All eyes are on Anwar Ibrahim, his battle in court and outside.

As always. But in Umno the political storm is brewing with the momentum picking up fast, a run-up to the big party polls in December.

Even at Umno branch level it's simmering. There are already reports of brawls, fist fights, assaults involving Umno members before, during and after "mesyuarat cawangan" or branch meetings.

And there are accusations of money being used for political support. Nothing new really. After all, party leaders from branch to division to national levels have admitted that money politics do exist in the party.

Now some branch leaders are saying, "We will not report the matter to the Anti-Corruption Agency but will forward the problem to party secretariat for further action." The party "secretariat' being the one announced by Umno president recently to "monitor branch and divisional meetings to ensure compliance of ethics and combat money politics." Not really new.

Hence some Umno membes are getting the ACA into the picture. ACA director-general Ahmad Said Hamdan has confirmed that reports on money politics by some Umno members are being investigated.

"Ironically Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was also a member of Team B then."

Recently a Seremban Umno member was detained for allegedly trying to bribe a branch chief for support.

Mukhriz Mahathir, one of Umno young leaders eyeing for higher post has complained of "struggling" to get enough support. He could very well be talking about money politics or some form of "intimidation" preventing members from making decisions on their own. Nothing new also.

However, something worth looking at is the "trend' of branches. In short there are branches (and their numbers are quite substantial) that are defying "instructions from the top." Hence you still get Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Muhyiddin Yassin and even Rais Yatim being nominated for party presidency.

True, branches' nominations don't count but the message is clear. Can Umno afford to turn a deaf ear on the voices of grassroots ? There's no denying some Umno branches are showing their displeasure with the leadership. We have heard of calls for Abdullah to step down as well as to hand over power to Najib Razak earlier than 2010 as planned. The same can be said in Wanita where supporters of Sharizat Jalil are said to be unhappy with Rafidah Aziz's succession plan.

But among the main grouse within UMNO is the quota system. Many want the nomination quota abolished, and are calling for a return to the old two-nomination way for every post.

So there we have it.. bickering, bribing, fighting and what have you.

Still paramount of it all (at least to me) is the ACA report lodged by former Selangor Umno strongman Mazlan Harun against Abdullah and Najib Razak for alleged abuse of power.

The report was based on a letter said to have been written by Petaling Jaya Selatan Umno division head Kapt (R) Datuk Zahar Hashim, which accused Abdullah and Najib of "political corruption of the highest order."

In the letter addressed to the Umno secretary-general, Zahar said the two top leaders had been campaigning to defend their positions despite asking others not to do the same. Zahar viewed the top two leaders' actions as a violation of the guidelines issued by party headquarters.

(The ACA has responded by saying statements will be recorded from Abdullah and Najib, but at the same time warned of actions against those who make false report).

It's interesting to note that Mazlan, son of former Selangor Umno overlord, the late Harun Idris, was a member of Team B led by Tengku Razaleigh which took on Mahathir's Team A in the big Umno fight of 1987. Ironically Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was also a member of Team B then.

Anyway, Umno are in for a stormy weather (if it hasn't already), which brings me to a remark made by supreme council member Syed Hamid Albar recently.

Syed Hamid who is also the Kota Tinggi division chairman was asked to comment on an incident at one of the branches in his division where a war of words erupted bweteen the pro- and anti-Syed Hamid factions. Chairs and tables were also over turned.

According to Syed Hamid, what happened was "asam garam dalam Umno." In short it, was all "part and parcel of Umno ."

Yes, he was talking about that one incident at the Kuala Sedili branch.

But there are many who would swear that the same words can be used to describe all the current bickering, quarrelling and fighting in the party. Said an Umno friend, "Biasa lah tahun pemilihan!"

click here: "Quietly" They Fight..
Sin Chew Jit Poh, Malaysia -